Why Mariners are a legit postseason threat

September 21st, 2022

This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer's Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ANAHEIM -- Scott Servais has made the obvious no secret over the past six weeks, openly declaring how the Mariners are a much better offense when consistently hitting home runs. And if there was ever a victory this season that perfectly illustrated the assertion from Seattle’s manager, it was Monday afternoon’s dominant 9-1 victory over the Angels

Carlos Santana crushed a grand slam in the fifth inning and a solo shot in the ninth, and Ty France clobbered a three-run blast in the seventh, with that trifecta serving as the difference in Seattle snapping a three-game skid. If that also sounds obvious, consider that had it not been for those three swings -- just those three -- the Mariners would’ve finished the ninth inning tied at 1.

Making Monday’s effort more timely and impressive was that the Mariners’ top three home run hitters were out of the lineup, as Eugenio Suárez (31 homers), Julio Rodríguez (27) and Cal Raleigh (23) are nursing injuries, though Rodríguez was in the lineup Tuesday night in Oakland and Raleigh was expected back later in the series.  

“The way the game is today, you need to hit homers,” Servais said. “It's really hard to win when you don’t. It’s hard to put four or five hits together in an inning.”

Run production -- or more specifically, home run production -- has been a huge factor in Seattle’s 26-17 record since Aug. 1, the American League’s fourth-best record in that stretch, as no AL team has left the yard more than the Mariners (69 dingers). As such, the long ball has accounted for a significant chunk of their overall run production, way up from earlier this season, including eight of their nine on Monday. 

Mariners’ runs scored via HR

Opening Day-July 31: 43.3% (9th in MLB)

Aug. 1-present: 55.8% (2nd)

The 12.5% jump is the second highest between both time spans, but that number could take a hit with Suárez sidelined at least another week, if not longer. That’s what made Santana’s heroics on Monday huge. He’s hit a whopping seven in his past nine games. 

“When you score a lot of [runs] off homers, it makes it a little easier,” France said. “It's not just one person that we're relying on. It's just going to take all of us to get this done.”

Earlier this year, Seattle's biggest offensive issues were rooted in putting runners on but not cashing in; before Aug. 1, the Mariners had stranded an MLB-high 738 runners. And that’s what’s made their power surge even more effective -- they’re driving them all in with one big swing. 

As Servais regularly says, “home runs are awesome,” but there’s also risk in living and dying by the long ball, which he also recognizes. Good teams are well-rounded offensively, but homers are a big component. Each of the past two World Series champions, the Braves last year and the Dodgers in 2020, ranked in the top three in homers. 

The pitching quality will pick up significantly should the Mariners reach the postseason, but by then, it’s possible they’ll be fully healthy. Because at full strength, their power could carry them.


France’s home run in Anaheim on Monday was notable far less for its impressive 407-foot distance (per Statcast) beyond the deepest part of the park than it was for its quirk. As it landed over the left-center-field wall, the ball sailed right over an ad at Angel Stadium that was adorned with a French flag. 

Talk about product -- and hit -- placement.

“They brought it up,” France said, laughing. “Right over the French ice cream sign. That was good placement. My name is France and I like ice cream.”